I got the opportunity to travel to Ontario Canada, last weekend, for the 2015 Trek Store Canada Cup / Ontario Cup. My good friend Hayden Sampson, was planning on heading out and needed someone to tag along. Fortunately, my schedule worked out and I was able to do just that.
We flew into Buffalo NY, rented a van and headed North. It was a bit of a journey still and we quickly realized that neither of out phones had service over the Canadian border. We quickly became “lost” in but headed in the right direction. After a long drive we arrived at the Horseshoe Resort, a small ski hill in what appeared to be, the middle of nowhere.
We woke up Friday morning to explore the area and check out the race venue. It was pouring rain, which we expected, but the forecast showed clearing skies later that afternoon and the rest of the weekend.
The race venue was located at Hardwood Ski and Bike. About a five min. car ride from where Hayden and I were staying. With all the rain, we were expecting some sloppy conditions out there, but we loaded the bikes and headed over to check it out anyway. When we arrived, to our surprise, there were a number of cyclists out riding the trails. In Utah, that would never fly. For one, the trails just wouldn’t allow it. The mud would be too thick and messy. Two, it’s not part of the “code”. Don’t ride trails when they’re wet and muddy. But thankfully, due to the geographical history of the earth, giant glaciers, left some prime soil that soaks up the water like a sponge.
We road a few laps in the rain and quickly realized this was one of the funnest and most challenging courses we’d been on. There were dozens of technical features throughout the entire course, that kept you on your A game. From super tight singletrack to big rock and tree drops to a few man made gap jumps. It was all smiles for a couple of Utah boys.
The following day, the sun was out! We loaded out bikes and headed back to the venue for another two hour pre-ride. This time, the trails were buttery smooth. Literally no puddles and tacky dirt as far as they eye could see. We road a number of laps, dialed in all the A lines, then strapped on the GoPro in hopes of capturing the trail.
It’s a bit tough to see at times, and of course, the features look no where near to scale, but man is it fun.
Race Day: We woke up early, to some light rain, with increasing chances in the forecast. A bit different that we had expected, but we were ok with that since we’d ridden a number of laps in the rain and had an idea of what it would be like… Well, not quite.
The rain picked up and by 1:45 it was pouring down. The race went on as expected. At one point during the race, the rain came down so hard rivers immediately formed on sections of the trails. That combine with a few hundred athletes on the course, made the conditions quite a bit different. It got really sloppy, it got crazy muddy and with each lap, sections of the course were always a bit different. This was elite mountain bike racing at it’s best. You had to be on your game, the entire time. No rest, no recovery. From one short punch climb to a technical descent back to another. One of the best racing experiences I’ve had in a long time.
This race was quite hard for me. I like races that have long climbs, where moves and attacks can be made, followed by long descents where one can really make or break the time gaps, based on DH skills. This race was filled with short, steep climbs and short steep descents. Basically, a two hour interval session, with steep drops, slippery as ice roots and rocks and a monsoon pouring from the sky.
It was an amazing racing experience to say the least. If I can, I’d love to come back next year to this same event. The venue was great, the competition was a fierce group of elite athletes from around the world and despite the mud and much, it was one of the best races I’ve had.
Thank you Team Endurance360 for the support. All the fine folks at Hardwood Ski and Bike for the time and effort, setting up such a great course and for all the real deal elite athletes out there that made this event so dang hard.